Our volunteers living in Uganda will call the suburb of Lugala home which is home to some of the best parts of the whole semester.
Are you totally in love with the ILP program in Uganda yet? We're not picking favorites, but it's a definite favorite if you ask the ILP staff. Groups spend an entire semester in a small suburb teaching English, with weekends off and vacation days to explore the rest of the country. You'll spend about a half a day teaching, which means some free time during the week to do some exploring.
Don't miss this — See typical day looks like while volunteering in Uganda.
So, what does all of this free time look like? We've taken a look at how past semesters have been spending their time and are just a little bit jealous. Take a look below to see what we're talking about.
Activities In Lugala + Day Trips
Your city is small, a slice of local life found tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. In Lugala, you’ll be able to spend some of your time helping out when you’re not teaching (and tasting a few local snacks!) and can keep busy on a Saturday or Sunday by experiencing a nearby city, like Kampala.
We have a few ideas for what to do during the week here, and a few more Saturday/Sunday activities below:
Help Out With Clean Water Projects
You’ll already be making an incredible impact during the day by teaching English, but there is so much need for other projects in your community. Most people in your neighborhood will be living on less than $1 a day, and are living in homes without windows and running water.
Without running water, loads of time is spent trekking to the nearest well or spring, or puddle where they can get some form of water. If the water pools into puddles, there’s a high risk that the water is contaminated by the dirt and other trash in the pool— drinking it will cause some unpleasant symptoms or even life-threatening diseases. Volunteers will be able to help out by building wells and springs to pipe in fresh water than can be accessed before it pools in the dirt and gets contaminated.
Each semester will have the opportunity to help with clean water projects, as well as other service projects. Learn a bit more about those service opportunities here.
Visit The Gadaffi Mosque
One surprise our ILP volunteers in Uganda have come home with was an impactful visit to the Gadaffi Mosque, a gorgeous building right in the middle of downtown Kampala. For many volunteers, what started as a trip to the capital city often ended with an incredibly profound and impactful experience.
The very center and heart of Kampala is marked by this beautiful mosque. If you think of Kampala as a large circle, the mosque is the bullseye. There are several main roads that lead here and the tall structure can be seen from all over the city, giving you a frame of reference for where you're at. It’s a symbol of the city, a beacon of religion in the bustle of the city life ... understandable when you leave the loud traffic of Kampala and take a minute to see the city from above, in a quieter space.
Unlike some other mosques, visitors are all welcome to step inside to view gorgeous marble archways and detailed windows. With a guide, you can also climb up around 300 stairs to get to the top of the minaret for a 360-degree view of the busy city. You’ll need to pay a small fee to enter, which includes a guide who walks you inside the mosque, detailing some of the building’s history, then up the stairs to the view of the city.
Here's more about visiting the Gadaffi mosque.
Zip Line At Griffin Park
Found right on the edge of the Mabira forest, you can spend an afternoon zip lining over a canopy of trees, keeping an eye out for colorful parrots or lizards that dart in and out of the trees. You might even spot a red-tailed monkey if you aren’t zooming by too quickly!
It’s right outside of Kampala, so something that’s easily done on a Saturday or Sunday when you want to experience a bit of adventure. Test your hand at 5 zip lines that take you soaring over the tree tops, plus some repelling and bridge walks.
- Hours: Zip line tours start at 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM, daily. The zip line adventure takes about four hours.
- Cost: Varies on the package ($50 for the least expensive, and $100 for the most expensive option, which includes transport to and from Kampala and a few other perks). Get more info on their website.
Find it here.
Shop At The African Craft Village
Sometimes called the African Village, this is THE place to shop and Definitely our top pick if you're going for a shopping spree. We've had ILP groups who would go multiple times in their semester (multiple Saturdays in a row!), and brought home souvenirs every time they went. This market has what you’re looking for: dresses, wrap skirts, purses, artwork, nativity sets, woven mats, baskets, jewelry and more.
Our favorite part about this market (other than the vendors that we love and the items they're selling) ... it's so quiet compared to other markets! Obviously this can change depending on the time of day you go, but when we went in the evening we only ran into a handful of other shoppers. It's so much easier to shop when there's not huge crowds.
Get more info on souvenirs (and souvenir shopping) while in Uganda.
Spot Monkeys At The Imperial Gardens
This is a relatively chill activity but one groups tend to do at least once during their semester. Nearby are a set of beautiful gardens. It's a lovely spot to take a stroll and just relax, but it's also home to monkeys who love playing up in the treetops. The local staff has let our volunteers know it's okay to bring snacks to feed the monkeys (just clear whatever you bring with the local staff to double check). Things like fruit are pretty much always a safe bet.
There's a small fee to enter the gardens. Talk to your local staff about a trip out here for the afternoon.
Picnic At The Baha'i Temple
The Baha’i House of Worship is something to see while you're in Kampala. Built for those of the Baha'i fairth and anyone who would like to visit, the house of worship includes a beautiful temple and stunning grounds that are always free to enter. The temple is situated on top of Kikaya Hill and boasts a sprawling view of Kampala from expansive lawns. Past ILP groups have liked to visit the nearby Great Fruit Market in Kampala and come here for a quiet picnic on the grass.
- Cost: Free to enter
Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, closed Fridays and Mondays
Find it here.
Head to the Taloso Workshop in Kampala for a fun afternoon of making jewelry. ILP groups have gone to make earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, choosing from a variety of beads and designs. You'll work with a jewelry maker to help you along the process (plan on it taking about 1.5 hours).
- Cost: It's about 30,000 shillings to make two pieces of jewelry
Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM (4:00 PM on Sundays)
Find it here.
Visit The Uganda Museum
Learn more about the history, culture, and geography of the country you're calling home for a few months. There are several sections that house iconic artifacts from the country’s ancient tribes, plus some pieces from contemporary artists which paint a portrait of what Uganda used to be and where it’s moving towards. A can’t miss experience for someone who is living in Uganda for a semester.
- Cost: About $5 USD
Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Find it here (it's near Kampala)
Experience The Kasubi Royal Tombs
This is the burial site of the four past kings of Uganda, with a traditionally styled grass hut tombs that probably are what comes to mind when you think of Africa. The UNESCO site not only features a glimpse into a unique architectural style, but has royal drums on display, as well as information of the country's past rulers.
- Cost: About $1-2
Hours: Open 24/7, but you'll likely go during the day with a guide to really get the most out of the visit.
Find it here.
Our Favorite Weekend Trips
With every weekend off during your semester, you’ll need a few adventures to keep you busy. Here are just a few of the ones we recommend, though we think you’ll find a few others to add to your bucket list.
Abseil Down Sipi Falls
We think one of the highlights of your semester will be trekking to these waterfalls. Sipi Falls is the name of a gorgeous waterfall that sports some of the country’s most impressive views.
The hike is pretty intense (you can actually taxi there if you’re not in the mood to trek there) though the hike is worth it! We recommend staying the night so you can hang out at the nice resort, and wake up early to see the sunrise near the cascading falls. So gorgeous!
Here are our recommended places to stay, tips for hiking Wanale Ridge, and an insider's guide to Sipi Falls to help make this weekend trip even easier.
Hike Wanale Ridge
You’ll find this hike in a section of Mt. Elgon National Park, an expansive park where you can do multi day treks up to the famed Mr. Elgon. But we’re just here to outline Wanale Ridge. One ILP alumna had this say about the experience: it was “the craziest hike I have ever been on, complete with mudslides, branch ladders and waterfalls” but once you get to the top, you get an amazing view of Mbale city. Plan on muddy trails if it’s rainy, rocky trails, your fair share of waterfalls and streams to cross, all while hiking through a pretty thick jungle.
It's a popular weekend thing to do with Sipi Falls — get more info here.
Go On A Safari
Ready for a safari? There are a few national parks to choose from if you want to fill up your camera roll with herds of zebras, friendly giraffes, prides of lions and a handful of the other animals that call Uganda home. But on a weekend, the closest park to where you’ll be living is Lake Mburo National Park, which is a unique park in one big way — thanks to the animals who live here (the occasional giraffe, zebras, hippos, and buffaloes) you can actually explore this park on foot, or on bicycle if you’d like.
Of course, you can also ride in a Jeep or on horseback if you’d rather. Get more information about Lake Mburo National Park and the other places to safari in Uganda.
Spend Time With Baby Elephants
You’ll be able to see these beautiful giants from a distance on safari but you can get personal with a few baby elephants at a conservation center just outside of Entebbe if you'd like.
The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre rescues orphaned, abused, and other animals in need of help and works to get them healthy enough to return to the wild, or provides them a safe and happy home where they can thrive. Feed breakfast to a couple of baby elephants, bow to the impressive Shoebill bird, race a cheetah and pat a rhino here.
We’ve planned your trip to the center here — that post is full of info like how to get there, opening hours, costs, and other details.
Experience A Lakeside Getaway + Spot Zebras
Might be a bit tight to fit it into a weekend, but could definitely be done on a 3-day if you’re feeling pressed for time. Lake Bunyonyi is a popular place to relax where you can spend a lazy afternoon canoeing across the lakes or admiring the sunrise or sunset over the many islands that dot the lake (one is home to zebras which you just have to go see). It’s also a place where a couple of Uganda’s local tribes still live, so a visit might get you a night of traditional dance and music.
We have recommendations on places to stay, getting there and other tips to help you plan your trip to Lake Bunyonyi right here.
Ready for Africa?
We thought so! Come spend a semester giving back by teaching English, helping with other humanitarian projects, and of course, spending time exploring all the waterfalls, safaris, and markets Uganda has to offer.